Industrial and Provident Societies Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th June 1967.

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As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

2.46 p.m.

Photo of Mr Derek Page Mr Derek Page , King's Lynn

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

It was in 1882 that the Bills of Sale (Amendment) Act was passed. Debentures issued by incorporated companies were exempted from the provisions of that Act, but no similar exemption was provided in the case of co-operatives. At the time that did not seem to matter, but with the growth of co-operatives, especially since the last war, the problem has become increasingly urgent. Co-operatives—especially agricultural co-operatives—have found it difficult to raise capital as easily as required. In the last year or two the problem has become increasingly urgent. I am indebted to the Agricultural Central Co-operative Association for drawing my attention to the urgency of the matter.

The Association has recently carried out an investigation into the future financing of agricultural co-operatives, and within the last few weeks it has become obvious that there is an urgent need to amend the law in this respect. According to the report that has been issued, it is estimated that a gap in capital of £10 million by 1970 and a further £19 million by 1975 is likely to arise unless some action is taken to improve the position.

Only by amending the law relating to co-operatives, by allowing them to create floating charges, can we help to close this gap. There will be need to provide finance in other ways for the co-operatives, but this will be one of the most effective means of doing so. It is not possible to say where the capital will be coming from, but there are various sources which the co-operatives will be able to tap much more easily if the House sees fit to allow the Bill to go through its remaining stage.

I am grateful to the Department for its co-operation, and to my hon. Friend, and also to the co-operators in King's Lynn and the surrounding area for the advice they have given me on the need for the Measure. The Bill fits in very well with the development of the horticultural movement which is being encouraged by the Department. It fits in well with the overall spirit of farmers in going in more for co-operative operations, and if our Common Market application should be successful this strengthening of the cooperatives will not merely be urgent; it will be vital.

2.49 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Hoy Mr James Hoy , Edinburgh Leith

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Derek Page) on having brought forward a useful Measure. It was perhaps to have been expected that he would not be allowed to get away with a Bill that drew distinctions between north and south of the Border, and I am relieved that he has been able to exercise his ingenuity to such effect that everyone is now happy.

The Bill will enable co-operative societies to raise capital by the ordinary commercial practice of creating floating charges on their assets—more particularly the movable assets in which many societies have considerable sums of money tied up. In these days, when cooperative societies are increasingly in competition with large commercial interests, it is right that they should not be handicapped by being prevented from making use of floating charges. Although of general application, the Bill is expected mainly to benefit agricultural and horticultural co-operative societies, and I hope that they will take full advantage of it.

The Bill has been brought forward at a time when, in accordance with the provisions of the Agriculture Act, 1967, the Government are about to give further encouragement to producers to co-operate in production and marketing. The two developments are, therefore, to some extent complementary and I hope that both, in their different ways, will give real assistance to agricultural and horticultural co-operation. I am, therefore, happy to give the Bill my support and hope that it will receive that of the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.